The long-term impact of COVID-19 on our health is still uncertain, but it is evident that for many individuals, symptoms can be intense and persist for months or even years. One area that COVID-19 can significantly affect is the cardiovascular system. Research and doctors' experiences have shown that the virus, as well as long COVID, can cause a range of heart issues, from minor problems that resolve on their own to more severe complications.
The exact mechanisms by which COVID-19 affects the heart are still unclear. Some theories suggest increased inflammation of the heart and arteries, as well as low oxygen levels, may play a role. However, the reasons why some individuals experience these complications while others do not remain unknown.
It is important to note that while heart issues can occur, they are rare in mild cases and in previously healthy individuals. The risk of complications increases with the severity of the disease, particularly if the person is hospitalized or intubated. Older individuals, those with preexisting cardiovascular conditions, and individuals with comorbidities such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes are also at higher risk.
For those who do experience heart issues during or after a COVID-19 infection, the symptoms can vary. Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or the tissue around the heart (pericarditis) can occur. Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) are also possible. In rare cases, a COVID-19 infection can contribute to heart attacks, with worse outcomes observed in certain racial and ethnic groups.
Long COVID can also present a range of heart issues. Some individuals may experience cardiovascular diseases with objective abnormalities on cardiac testing, while others may have cardiovascular symptoms without clear objective abnormalities. Common long COVID cardiovascular symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, and an exaggerated heart rate.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent cardiovascular impacts from COVID-19 or long COVID, maintaining heart health can be beneficial. Managing cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity can reduce the risk of severe infections and negative cardiovascular outcomes. Prioritizing heart health through healthy eating, regular exercise, cholesterol and blood pressure management, and smoking cessation can improve overall resilience to illness.
In conclusion, while the full impact of COVID-19 on the heart is still uncertain, it is clear that the virus can cause a range of cardiovascular issues. Understanding the risk factors and symptoms associated with these complications is crucial for both healthcare providers and individuals. By prioritizing heart health, individuals can better prepare themselves to face any illness, including COVID-19.